NewsSpecial WireRevolutionary Guards and allies sweep Iran’s new cabinet

Revolutionary Guards and allies sweep Iran’s new cabinet

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, August 14 – Iran’s new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented a cabinet to the country’s Majlis (parliament) on Sunday that was dominated by prominent hard-liners earmarked for the key portfolios of foreign affairs, interior and security. Former commanders and officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and other radical Islamist institutions have swept the other ministries. Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, August 14 – Iran’s new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented a cabinet to the country’s Majlis (parliament) on Sunday that was dominated by prominent hard-liners earmarked for the key portfolios of foreign affairs, interior and security. Former commanders and officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and other radical Islamist institutions have swept the other ministries.

At least 13 of the 21 nominated ministers have been in the Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated revolutionary agencies at some stage during their careers. Five nominees have been Islamic revolutionary prosecutors or officials of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the notorious secret police.

Ahmadinejad’s cabinet, as expected, includes no women.

“There is not one minister in this cabinet who could be described as a moderate”, said Ali Tavassoli, an Iranian affairs analyst based in Dubai. “There are a few hard-liners and many more very radical hard-liners. Ahmadinejad must feel quite at home among this crowd”.

The new cabinet is a list of officials whose careers are strikingly similar to that of the new president. From young, ardent Islamic revolutionaries mostly in their early twenties at the outset of the 1979 revolution, they have risen to senior executive or managerial positions through loyal devotion to the Islamic revolution.

The roster of ministerial nominees largely tallies with the list that was leaked to Iran Focus on Saturday by informed sources in the Iranian capital, who warned that there could be last-minute changes as horse trading among powerful factions within the hard-line camp continued well into the night.

The most surprising name in the final list was perhaps that of the new defence minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, a brigadier general in the Revolutionary Guards who joined the IRGC when it was formed in 1979. He took part in a bloody campaign to suppress the Kurds in 1979 and 1980. Between 1981 and 1985, Mohammad-Najjar was a commander of IRGC units in Lebanon.

But the cabinet will be dominated by two powerful Shiite clerics, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi as the new Minister of the Interior, and Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ezhei, who will head the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). Both men have spent much of the past two decades at the top echelons of the MOIS. Both have been involved in the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Both have been implicated in the serial murder of dozens of dissidents and intellectuals in the 1990s. Both are among the most trusted confidants of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Analysts see the composition of the new cabinet as a clear sign of increasing radicalisation of the Islamic Republic, as hard-liners continue to consolidate power. The predominance of extremists and hard-line figures in the new cabinet surprised some observers who thought the ultra-conservative faction might be willing to include some of the allies of former presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami in the new cabinet to achieve greater unity within the theocratic state and send a less threatening signal to the West in the midst of the continuing crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“By Saturday night, as the new president’s proposed list of ministers became finalised, it appeared that Ahmadinejad had chosen the majority of his ministers from a single faction”, the website Hatef News, close to Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, wrote.

“The selection of [Mostafa”> Pour-Mohammadi as Interior Minister, Mohseni Ezhei as Minister of Intelligence and Security, and Saffar Harandi as Minister of Islamic Guidance, and the absence of several figures who are known for having more moderate views, have convinced analysts that the country is going to be administered by only a single faction that will dominate political, security and cultural institutions”, the website added.

An official from the ultra-conservative camp in the secretariat of the Majlis told reporters on Sunday that the new list had the “blessing” of the Supreme Leader.

“It was hammered out by a committee made up of three officials from Mr. Ahmadinejad’s campaign team, three members of the [hard-line-dominated”> Tehran City Council, and three representatives appointed by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi”, he said.

Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah Yazdi is an extremist Shiite cleric who is seen as Ahmadinejad’s ideological mentor. After his victory in the presidential elections, Ahmadinejad travelled to Qom to personally thank the ayatollah for his support. Mesbah Yazdi regularly advocates the use of “martyrdom operations” to fight “the enemies of Islam”.

The hard-line-dominated Majlis will vote on each nominee in the coming days and is widely expected to approve them. According to the rules, the president must introduce his cabinet within two weeks after his swearing-in ceremony. If a nominee fails to win the vote of confidence, the president must introduce a new one within two weeks.

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